Money Can’t Buy Love, but it Might Buy Friends

Researchers exploring behaviors behind social acceptance now have a theoretical answer for the Beatles’ lingering question about lonely people.

“Where do they all come from?” They just finished shopping lavishly to try to fit in.

A recent study reveals people will spend large sums of money to forge friendships and bond with a certain crowd. The research could prove beneficial for advertisers and marketers looking for ways to grow their profits.

“The desire to feel included is highly ingrained and extremely powerful. Some big companies such as Apple are extremely successful in part because they make the customer feel like they ‘belong,’” study author Nicole Mead, a researcher at Tilburg University in Netherlands, told BusinessNewsDaily.

People who feel socially excluded will sacrifice their personal and financial well-being for social acceptance, concludes the Journal of Consumer Research study, which also discovered people will eat foods they often don’t eat or like and do illicit drugs to feel liked.

In four experiments, researchers paired study participants together and induced them to feel socially accepted or excluded. Then, they assessed how their spending and consumption patterns changed.

Overall, excluded participants were more likely to buy a product symbolic of group membership and tailor their spending preferences to the preferences of an acquaintance, researchers said.

Consumer Joan Krammer notices similar behaviors in her Canadian community.

“In the large city and high-demand neighborhood I live in, I see extravagant spending on houses and kitchens when I know that the people can’t afford it,” said Krammer, a computer consultant in Toronto.

Her neighbors, she suggests, are trying hard to fit in.

“One of the take-home messages from this work is that advertisements that are aimed at people who are chronically lonely or temporarily so might want to include the notion that their products or services can bring them new friends,” said study researcher Kathleen Vohs, an associate professor of marketing at University of Minnesota.

“Marketing messages that give the idea that ‘everyone is doing it’ will be highly persuasive.”

This article was provided by BusinessNewsDaily, a sister site to LiveScience.